Deanna Kang says her family has been involved with traditional Chinese medicine for generations. Now she carries on that tradition as a modern day pharmacist, and she’s officially started her new position as pharmacy manager at the Rexall in Elmira, which celebrated its grand opening last week.
“There have been many teams involved in bringing this store up,” Kang said. “Personally, I’ve helped out with setting up the store in preparation for our college inspection to make sure that the pharmacy is good and operational, and up and running for the community, so that we met all of the standards.”
Kang comes from a Rexall location in Cambridge.
The new Elmira Rexall location has a medical walk-in clinic attached to it, a virtual clinic with the company MD Connected. That means the physicians and health care workers are employees of MD Connected and available for consultation over video. Patients can also make appointments to be taken at home over video as well.
“In Elmira, there aren’t very many medical clinics available within the city. And so we felt that bringing a medical clinic to the city would provide the community with more services. And so it would just help make the community healthier, and it would help allow the community more flexibility and more healthcare workers available to them when they need them.”
A staff person is available to triage patients and set them up for their virtual appointments.
The clinic has two consultation rooms, both equipped with screens for video consultations. Kang says people can also set up appointments at home if that is easier.
Caterin Munoz is the assistant who interacts directly with patients at the clinic. She takes their information and assesses their needs.
“I see if there is pain, swelling or if they have a rash or need a refill. (I determine) the causes of the appointment that the patient needs,” said Munoz.
Then she sets up the virtual appointment with the doctor.
So far the clinic is going well, she says. “It’s starting, we don’t have a lot of patients, but the patients we do have, everything is good.”
If the patients get a prescription, the doctor can send it directly to the pharmacy next to the clinic, she said.
Kang says that the field of pharmacy is expanding and that as a pharmacist, she can do more than just administer medication. The list of services she can do at Rexall include more than people may think, she added.
“There is a medical clinic here. I know it’s very difficult to get physicians on site, but if we have a virtual connection, it allows flexibility where people can have access to a physician at all times of the day. That is one reason why we have a telemedicine clinic here, just for that flexibility, and so we can provide more services for patients here.”
As a pharmacist, Kang can administer medication, but she emphasizes that pharmacists are available for more than just filling prescriptions.
The services available at Rexall also include testing A1C levels in diabetes patients, administering vaccinations, safely discarding old medications, providing Naloxone kits and training to use them, filling Paxlovid prescriptions, help with medication management. The company also has a program to quit smoking and even help with migraine assessment.
“I basically want the community to know that we are here for them, we’re here to take care of anybody who needs help. I’m a pharmacist, a health care worker. And so what I want to provide for the community is basically a place where people can feel safe and where people can feel like they have someone to go to for help.”
For Michael Helbrecht, the vice-president of operations at Rexall, the grand opening was a homecoming. Helbrecht says he was born in Elmira, and went to grade school in town.
“We’re just excited to be in this community, in Elmira today, opening up our beautiful store in Elmira. We’ve been looking to come into this community for a long time now,” he said.
“We look for places that need more access to health care. And Elmira was one of those places, and we’re excited to make an impact in the community and provide great health options.”
The store is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Currently the clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Kang says the hours will expand to evenings and weekends when their staff member is available to work.
The Region of Waterloo is considered an area of high physician need. That designation is determined by the province through a calculation involving population numbers and density, travel time to a centre offering doctor care, travel time to a centre with advanced specialty care, the ratio of family physicians to population, and input from Local Health Integration Networks.
According to the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce, a seasoned family doctor can take on 1,500 to 2,500 patients. That said, many doctors across Ontario are at retirement age, and incoming doctors take on fewer patients.
MD Connected is a company that provides telemedicine services. It was launched in 2017 and focused on rural communities in Ontario. It has since expanded to provide services in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.